Indonesia names new air transport head amid AirAsia QZ8501 recovery efforts

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK): Indonesia's Transportation Minister Ignasius Jonan has named a new air transportation director general, Suprasetyo, in a bid to improve the country's air transportation sector.

Suprasetyo is a former head of Airport Authority Office Zone I, which is headquartered at the country's main gateway, Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Banten.

Jonan named Suprasetyo on Monday evening, replacing Harry Bakti Gumay, who retired in April 2014.

Harry was one of the ministry's longest serving air transportation director generals, having taken on the job in May 2009.

Besides the new air transportation director general, the ministry named nine other echelon I, II and III officials on Monday.

The annoucement comes amid Indonesian-led multinational search operations for the wreckage and those onboard the ill-fated AirAsia Flight QZ8501 that crashed in the Java Sea on Dec 28.

It was carrying 162 people onboard when it vanished from radar screens less than half-way into a two-hour flight from Indonesia's second-biggest city of Surabaya to Singapore. The Indonesian meteorological agency has said stormy weather likely caused the Airbus A320-200 to crash.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the crash exposed widespread problems in the management of air transportation in Indonesia.

Indonesia has suspended 61 flights from five airlines found to have no valid permits to fly from the country, Jonan said.

Jonan also said that the ministry has suspended 11 officials for negligence and have audited five airports in the country since the crash.

He said the transport ministry will set up an online system by the end of January to monitor flight permits.

The transport ministry suspended AirAsia's flight permit for the Surabaya-Singapore route on Jan 2, after it was revealed that the budget carrier allegedly violated operational procedures by flying on a Sunday when its licence only allowed it to fly on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

The airline, however, insisted it had the right to fly the route for seven days a week.

With contributions from agencies